In a job at the Providence (R.I.) VA Medical Center, he exclusively practiced outpatient care, but he found that he missed key aspects of inpatient work, such as the intensity of the clinical issues and teaching encounters. “I cold-called the hospital’s chief of medicine and volunteered to start mentoring inpatient residents,” Dr. Anderson said. “That was 17 years ago.”
Another abiding interest derived from Dr. Anderson’s military service is travel medicine. While a physician in the Air Force, he was deployed to Haiti in 1995 and to Nicaragua in 2000, where he treated thousands of patients – both U.S. service personnel and local populations.
“In Haiti, our primary mission was for U.S. troops who were still based there following the 1994 Operation Uphold Democracy intervention, but there were a lot fewer of them, so we mostly kept busy providing care to Haitian nationals,” he said. “That work was eye opening, to say the least,” and led to a professional interest in tropical illnesses. “Since then, I’ve been a visiting professor for the University of Colorado posted to the University of Zimbabwe in Harare in 2012 and 2016.”
What gives Dr. Anderson such joy and enthusiasm for his VA work? “I am a curious lifelong learner. Every day, there are 10 new things I need to learn, whether clinically or operationally in a big hospital system or just the day-to-day realities of leading a group of physicians. I never feel like I’m treading water,” he said. He is also energized by teaching – seeing “the light bulb go on” for the students he is instructing – and by serving as a role model for doctors in training.
“As I contemplate all the simultaneous balls I have in the air, including our recent move into a new hospital building, sometimes I think it is kind of crazy to be doing as much as I do,” he said. “But I also take time away, balancing work versus nonwork.” He spends quality time with his wife of 21 years, 17-year-old daughter, other relatives, and friends, as well as on physical activity, reading books about philosophy, and his hobby of rebuilding motorcycles, which he says offers a kind of meditative calm.
“I also feel a deep sense of service – to patients, colleagues, students, and to the mission of the VA,” Dr. Anderson said. “There is truly something special about caring for the veteran. It’s hard to articulate, but it really keeps us coming back for more. I’ve had vets sing to me, tell jokes, do magic tricks, share their war stories. I’ve had patients open up to me in ways that were both profound and humbling.”
1. Young E et al. Impact of altered medication administration time on interdisciplinary bedside rounds on academic medical ward..